Storm rips roof off Merrillville apartment building
By Maria Amante firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3072 July 5, 2012 9:06PM
Northwest Indiana is under caution for high ozone levels after the Department of Environmental Management expanded the high ozone forecast to include Friday.
Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties are all advised to conserve energy in order to help protect individuals sensitive to poor air quality.
IDEM encourages people to walk, bike, carpool and use public transportation, avoid using the drive-through and combine errands into one trip. Avoiding the use of lawn mowers, turning off engines after 30 seconds of idling and keeping the air conditioner temperature to 75 degrees will all help reduce ozone.
Ozone forms when sunlight and hot weather bake vehicle exhaust, factory emissions and gasoline vapors, causing eye and throat irritation, asthma attacks and other problems.
Updated: August 7, 2012 6:36AM
MERRILLVILLE — Residents of Hickory Ridge Lake apartments looked on in awe as they watched rescue workers survey the damage from two buildings at the complex.
Forty-eight families were evacuated after heavy winds, estimated between 75 and 90 mph by the National Weather Service, blew the roof off one building and a portion of the roof off another at the apartment complex, 1718 E. 55th Ave.
Mothers carried their babies in 99 degree heat, waiting for diapers, water and relief, wanting access to their homes. A husband and wife embraced, watching as rescue workers came in and out of the building. Others just watched in worry, for their possessions and pets.
When the storm hit, it was “so frightening,” said Anita Vaulght, who had lived in her apartment for two years.
She was watching her grandchildren and heard the storm outside. When she felt the building shake, she grabbed them and put them in the bathtub with pillows over their heads.
“It was just acting real funny,” she said. “I wasn’t just scared. I was something I’ve never been before in my life. I’m so glad no one was hurt.”
Volunteers from the American Red Cross were at the scene, helping to provide residents with relief.
When the lights flickered in her apartment and at the sight of hail, Lashunda Stanford was terrified.
She lives in a basement apartment and went outside to find the windows of her van dented and a piece of the roof just a few feet from where her car was parked.
“There was a big, black cloud over the building, and it just sucked everything off,” Stanford said.
Stanford has lived in the building for three years.
April Norwood recently moved into the building. As the storm approached, she felt a tremble and then watched as the air conditioning unit almost fell on her daughter.
“The whole building shook,” she said.
Her car was destroyed in the wreckage, she said.
More than 13,000 NIPSCO customers in Lake County were still without power as of 8:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the company’s website. Outages were in Merrillville, Schererville, Gary and Crown Point.
Hot weather will continue to bake the Midwest on Friday, the National Weather Service said.
In Chicago, Thursday was the second consecutive day the city set or tied its record high, with another record-breaker possible Friday.
The record high for both July 4 and 5 in Chicago was 102 degrees. The city matched the Independence Day record Wednesday and broke the record Thursday with a high of 103.
St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and several other Midwest cities set record highs this week or were on the verge of doing so. The National Weather Service issued excessive-heat warnings for all of Illinois and Indiana, as well as parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.
Sun-Times Media and The Associated Press contributed.